This beautifully illustrated picture book by Kadir Nelson is definitely meant to be read aloud to young children. The story and illustrations will appeal to children around ages 4-8, but the reading level of the text is much higher than that age range, so young children might struggle to read the story on their own.
There is a very strong moral lesson that is conveyed in this story — the benefit of sowing seeds of kindness. This is a very well-known metaphor, and Nelson struggles to keep the story more important than beating a child over the head with a sermon on being “good”. What saves the book from being overwhelming preachy are the stunning illustrations.
The colors used, and the expressive and adorable animals will appeal to children. The point of view shown in the oil painting illustrations is low to the ground, on level with the animals, and helps to draw the reader into the story. A two-page spread shows the friendliness and hope of the birds as they approach the rabbit and mouse to ask for some of their food. The reader is seeing the birds from the viewpoint of the rabbit and mouse, and the stretch of blue sky is wonderful, especially as it contrasts with the red of the cardinal.
This story could be read to young children at the beginning of a school year to encourage kindness and sharing, but I think Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson would be a better choice. Woodson’s story imparts a similar message as If You Plant a Seed without the didacticism.